You smell like a goat. You’re unshaven. You work endless hours in dimly lit caves. You speak a language understood only by others of your kind. You fear women and put prices on men’s heads. And legions of enemies long to destroy you.
The Swedish summer is not to be missed. Photo: Ben Mack
You are, of course, a journalist.
All you care about is your pretend world of writing. Everything you do is in an effort to find words for your next story. That’s all it is.
On the other end of the spectrum of humanity, you have the student. Idealistic, joyful, fresh-scented: the antithesis of a journalist.
Everything you encounter you view with a sense of open-minded wonder. Life is seen as a series of experiences, and your only motivation is to experience them.
And when it comes to experiences, the Swedish summer is chock-full of them – and at student-friendly prices, too.
If you decide to come to Sweden before the start of the fall semester – or stick around after the spring – you’ll be in for a treat that even dour-demeanored journalists such as myself can appreciate.
Here’s a brief (and admittedly very small) sampling of what you can do:
SEE THE MIDNIGHT SUN
In Norrland, the sun almost never sets during the summer. Photo: Ben Mack
While normally associated with ice hotels, the Northern Lights and freezing temperatures almost year-round, head up to Norrland during the summer and you can experience sunshine almost 24 hours a day. It never gets totally dark, and is a great chance to go north of the Arctic Circle without needing snowshoes. Be sure to check out the wildlife such as reindeer, and if you get a chance try hiking up Kebnekaise, Sweden’s tallest mountain (over 2000 meters high). You can also learn about the Sami, the indigenous people who have lived in Sweden for more than 5000 years.
SJ offers daily (and nightly) train journeys, going as far as Narvik, Norway. A one-way trip from Växjö takes more than 20 hours, but offers spectacular views of some of the most unspoiled natural areas in the world.
Thousands of lakes dot Sweden, and almost every one of them is loaded with fish. And thanks to allemansrätten (“everyman’s right”), you can fish in quite a few of them. Check local laws first, though, to make sure you’re not catching an endangered species.
ROUGH IT SWEDISH STYLE
Swedes are known for having a special connection to nature, which is reflected in architecture. Photo: Ben Mack
Allemansrätten gives a person the right to access, walk, cycle, ride, ski, and camp on any land –with the exception of private gardens, the immediate vicinity of a house and farmland. Restrictions also apply for nature reserves and other protected areas. The law also gives the right to pick wild flowers, mushrooms and berries (provided they are not legally protected), but not to hunt. Swimming in any lake and putting an unpowered boat on any water is permitted unless explicitly forbidden. Visiting beaches and walking by a shoreline is permitted, providing it is not a part of a garden or within the immediate vicinity of a residence. According to legal practice this is between 100 to 300 meters from a dwelling house.
In other words, almost the entire countryside becomes your own personal playground. Just remember to clean up after yourself: Swedes take environmental stewardship very seriously.
Despite its northerly location, daytime summer temperatures throughout Sweden are commonly above 20 degrees Celsius. So go and enjoy the great outdoors – without losing a kilo of sweat.
GET YOUR GROOVE ON
Summer is music festival season throughout Europe, and Sweden is no exception. Photo: Csilla Nagy
Summer means music festival season, and Sweden offers a plethora of them for almost every taste. From large, multi-day events such as Gothenburg’s Way Out West (this year from August 11-13 and featuring Kanye West, Robyn, Tiësto, and dozens of other bands) to smaller festivals such as Norbergfestival (July 28-30 in Norberg, featuring electronic and experimental acts like Lustmord and Dopplereffekt) and Skogsröjet (August 12-13 in Rejmyre, with metal bands like W.A.S.P. and hardcore Superstar), there’s something for everyone. Many festivals also offer camping, meaning you can turn your trip into an aural adventure.
RELEASE YOUR INNER IBRAHIMOVIC
Helsingborg's Olympia Stadium is just one of many that hosts regular Allsvenskan matches. Photo: Ben Mack
Allsvenskan (meaning “All-Swedish”) is the highest division of football in Sweden, with the 16 teams playing a 30-game schedule from April to October. Most of the teams are located in southern Sweden, and each stadium holds thousands of supporters. Student tickets can be as cheap as 100 kronor, and even if you’re not a die-hard supporter of a club, it’s a great way to spend the afternoon and watch normally mild-mannered Swedes display emotions you didn’t think were possible. And with Swedish football encompassing a total of 10 tiers (Allsvenskan, Superettan, and Divisions 1-8), there’s a match going on just about everywhere.
Make your summer a study summer, where you learn Swedish to get a leg-up before fall classes start. A number of study associations offer courses at all levels. Possibly, you might also be eligible for university courses in Swedish, either full- or part-time.
Once you’ve achieved a certain level of proficiency, you can get a certificate by passing a recognized test. To find the program that’s right for you, the Swedish Institute has some great links to get you started.
DANCE AROUND A MIDSUMMER MAYPOLE
June 25 is Midsummer, one of the biggest holidays of the year in Sweden. Traditional events include raising and dancing around a huge maypole (majstång or midsommarstång), an activity that attracts families and many others. People listen to traditional music and some even wear traditional folk costumes. In addition, many wear crowns made of wild springs and wildflowers on their heads. Potatoes, herring, chives, sour cream, beer, snaps and the famous Swedish strawberries are usually eaten. Drinking songs are also important, and many drink heavily. Swedish culture at its finest, it is truly an event not to be missed.
So while the above list may just be a small sampler from the Swedish summer smorgasbord, know this: there’s never a shortage of things to do. For more ideas, head to your local tourist office (most towns have one), or search online.
Or better yet, step outside. You’ll be surprised how sunny it is.
If you’re a journalist, it’s a great way to at least get tan enough to resemble a ghost. That, and more material for your overly exaggerated narrative.
Swedish National Day, June 6, is sometimes called the unofficial start of summer. Photo: Ben Mack